Review: Jubilee, Lyric Hammersmith

Punk becomes very hard-going in a raucous but overlong Jubilee at the  Lyric Hammersmith

“Welcome to “Jubilee”. An iconic film most of you have never even heard of, adapted by an Oxbridge twat for a dying medium, spoiled by millennials, ruined by diversity, and constantly threatening to go all interactive. You poor fuckers.”

There’s a sense of Chris Goode’s adaptation of the 1978 Derek Jarman film Jubilee getting out ahead of itself as one of its key characters delivers the above speech pretty much as we begin. But no amount of self-awareness can give this production enough life to sustain its punkish attitude over a bloated running time.

Running at a reconfigured Lyric Hammersmith (design by Chloe Lamford) after playing the Royal Exchange late last year, there’s a definite statement of intent from the very beginning as the queer inhabitants of a squat take up residence. Cocks are waved, breasts are bared, queens are transported (Lizzie One Point Zero) and new kweens established, Travis Alabanza’s Amyl Nitrate. Continue reading “Review: Jubilee, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Run, Bunker Theatre

“You’re not sure what’s real and what’s not”

You might say that it’s tough to be a teenager in this day and age. Add in being Jewish and also gay and there’s a lot to deal with, but the joy of Stephen Laughton’s Run is that this examination of these intersecting identities is never heavy-handed. It is as enthusiastically complex as the 17-year-old Yonni himself and directed by Lucy Wray, Tom Ross-Williams delivers a cracking performance.

Stretching just over an hour, Run covers the gamut from the thrill of first love (with Adam, at the ‘Jew Camp’ they both get expelled from one wet hot summer) to the challenge of balancing Orthodox family comforts with the rising anti-Semitism he experiences outwith his native North London community. And in Laughton’s prose, combining poetry and punch, Yonni’s life is richly realised. Continue reading “Review: Run, Bunker Theatre”

Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse

“Everyone’s here from the UK but it’s always the Cotswolds or Scotland or something so nice to have an actual…we’re moving back there you see” 

What is it that draws writers to adaptation? Anya Reiss’ extraordinary debut of two cracking plays for the Royal Court has been followed by versions of 2 Chekhovs and Wedekind’s Spring Awakening for Headlong which is currently touring. The first Chekhov saw The Seagull transplanted to a modern day Isle of Man for the Southwark Playhouse and now for the same theatre, she has tackled Three Sisters which is located “near a British Embassy, overseas, now”.

Which is all very well but in a play that is predicated on the desire to return home, there appears to be no earthly reason why any of the Prozorova sisters – the modern women that they are here – can’t just book the next flight to the London they left just over a decade ago. Instead they languish in the non-specific country suggested to be somewhere we might have recently invaded, where their father served as a diplomat until his death, stuck because he sold their old family home. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Vieux Carré, King’s Head Theatre

“What a remarkable tableau vivant”

Though some of Tennessee Williams’ works are considered amongst the finest plays ever written, his legacy as a truly great playwright is something that has developed posthumously. He continued to produce considerable amounts of writing until the day that he died in 1983 but its critical reception was increasingly poor and so much of the latter part of his body of work has remained neglected. His 1977 play Vieux Carré hasn’t been seen in London since 1978 (although part of it formed part of another Williams play I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark On Sundays which played at the Cock Tavern as part of a double bill of unperformed works) but now receives a rare revival at the King’s Head Theatre in north London.

Often, the delving into the little-performed parts of established playwrights’ back catalogues reveals a good reason as to why they have largely on the shelves, but Robert Chevara’s production shimmers with Southern heat and captivating character work to make this a rediscovery worth taking considerable note of. Nicolai Hart Hansen’s set design wisely strips things back to distressed brick walls, maximising the space available into which three beds, a dinner table and a throw-covered grand piano are squeezed to evoke the rooming house of Mrs Wire, on 722 Toulouse in the French Quarter of New Orleans. We start with the figure of The Writer recalling the time he spent there and switch back in time to see him as a callow young man, newly arrived from St Louis and nervously struggling with his unfamiliar surroundings. Continue reading “Review: Vieux Carré, King’s Head Theatre”

Review: A Christmas Carol, Theatre Delicatessen

“You will be haunted Ebenezer, three times”

In what is the penultimate production that will take place at Theatre Delicatessen’s temporary home at the former headquarters of Uzbekistan Airways before it is converted into apartments (what else…), this interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Pete Wrench, is a co-production between .dash and tacit theatre.

On arrival, steaming mugs of mulled wine and mince pies welcome you into the offices of Scrooge & Marley’s Financial Solutions, although care should taken when taking your seat as the two additional rows that span the length of the room on the right hand side offer quite limited views. On the one hand, I’m pleased that so many tickets have been sold that this additional seating is necessary but on the other, the view, especially from those seats nearer the front, is so restricted as the stage in Scrooge’s office is so narrow and deep that much was missed as this was where we ended up.

Dickens’ tale has been modernised somewhat, references to the DWP and the current deficit abound and Bob Cratchit’s role in the office is to keep pedalling a bike which generates the electricity for the organisation. But much of the language used is quite faithful to the original text, creating a strange tension between the traditional and the innovative which is never quite resolved due to the lack of a clear creative vision for this production.

The innovation of having Marley appear on a bank of old TVs in the office was highly effective but I couldn’t quite see the connection within this interpretation: just why did Scrooge have so many screens in his office as he works in Financial Solutions rather than in the surveillance business and the ghostly images that appeared intermittently throughout the rest of the show were too indistinct to really make an impact. It would have been nice to have seen more use of video technology given its initial effectiveness and how it would have brought more originality to the storytelling.

Tom Daplyn’s Scrooge is excellent at the miserly curmudgeon, relishing in the grumpiness and anger that drives him, which makes it all the more surprising that this production has him come to his grand realisation practically after the first visitation, rendering the second and third somewhat redundant. Jonathon Saunders works hard as all three ghosts, his Christmas Yet To Come being the most effective with its stilts and long sweeping black cloak creating a sinister figure; Jonathan Wittaker is an appealing Bob and the most handsome, bequiffed Tom Ross-Williams does well as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. But in this awkward playing space, too much is lost with Scrooge’s back turned to us for too long at crucial moments, too many characters sat on a level with the audience and so swallowed up in the crowd and despite being trailed as a promenade production, there was little use of the space other than up front save for entrances and exits.

I did like much of the design aesthetic, with its mix of the modern and the Victorian and creatively, with its sound, lighting and video, this promised to be an intriguing evening. But without an equally inventive approach to the text and the way it is presented, or for that matter adequate attention to the needs of its audience, this Christmas Carol has missed a trick in order to make it stand out from the crowd.

Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: free cast sheet available
Booking until 24th December
Note: avoid sitting on the right hand side!!